The CoVID-19 pandemic is still with us, but now we are much more prepared for the potential second wave of the virus. Production lines are ready to start manufacturing disposable masks, visors and gloves locally. Hospitals are equipped to admit new patients. But it wasn’t like this few months ago.
In March the situation in Poland was no good. The number of positive tests for coronavirus were growing by the day and practically every healthcare institution was suffering from shortages of PPE, not mentioning the basic protective equipment needed by the citizens. There wasn’t enough masks, gloves, visors or respirators. While the Polish government introduced a country-wide lockdown, and most of us started to work from home, at EDC we all felt the urge to do something and support the community. The one amongst us, who made a first move, was Tomasz Żochowski, EDC’s Additive Manager. “I couldn’t bear a thought to just sit at home knowing that we have materials that can be very useful in this particular situation. I knew we had all that we need to do something great. And that includes the business contacts that we had made as EDC over the years. At that moment every little action was making a difference, so I decided to act.”
It took Tomasz just a few hours to gather more than 100 colleagues from EDC (Aviation and Gas Power) to help others. Soon the new co-leaders of the initiative were chosen and the new initiative #EngineersInArms started its operations.
It all started with the visors
Because PPE in Poland was scarce in the beginning of March, at first, we decided to open a production line of safety visors. We joined forces with our strategic partner on Warsaw campus, Łukasiewicz Research Network – Institute of Aviation, to combat the SARS-Cov-2. We got the foil material for the visors from the Polish Institute of Polymer Materials Engineering – and because our cause was noble, we got it all free of charge. That material let us start mass production of ~1500 items per day.
On top of the laser-cut visors our engineers were also producing personal protection based on a free, non-commercial version of the PRUSA research project used around the world. EDC staff, lead by Paweł Żuk, Additive Manufacturing Engineer at the EDC Additive Technologies Lab, operated twenty-five 3D printers to create parts for the visors. Except of our EDC lab equipment, our employees wanted to help out and put their own printers at homes to good use. “It was great that people joined with their private equipment. That allowed us to do even more”, said Paweł Żuk.
Having all the parts ready, GE Volunteers assembled and packed the boxes for the hospitals in Masovian and Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship. They worked in shifts to keep up with supply and demand. They even met in the evenings to prepare shipments of the visors for the hospitals. Agata Floriańczyk, CF6 Sub-Section Manager, was coordinating the assembly lines and volunteers. “I was deeply impressed by the great interest, mobilization and motivation of people. Everyone came and rushed to act immediately, totally focused on the task. I joined GE Volunteers 6 years ago, but I have never seen any action touched so many. People were working from home on a daily basis, so they were coming to the office only to help. And they were determined to stay till the very end. Everyone waited until the last package was ready, even when there was work only for a few people”.
In total 25 engineers were printing on both, company and personal 3D-printers for several dozens of hours and 44 people spent 300 hours at the visors production line, preparing 64 200 visors in total, that were donated to those in the frontlines of SARS-CoV-2 battle.
The snowball effect – additional activities
In just few weeks our initiative snowballed. We started talking to hospital representatives. To answer their most pressing needs we have started a collection of non-medical items that were needed in the ER’s. “We have donated over 1200 bottles of water, 850 toiletries, 100 pairs of slippers and a large supply of cutlery, plates and disposable cups to the Hospital for Infectious Diseases in Warsaw”, said Ewa Bobala, Failure Analysis Engineer, who organized that donation. “We were collecting goods for 3 weeks and received generous support from the EDC employees. I was happy to spend my free time for the sake of such a good initiative”, she added.
Also Michalina Cel, Fleet Programs Manager at GE Gas Power, who together with a few EDC friends, was responsible for sawing the cloth masks, thinks that taking part in the #EngineersInAction initiative was very satisfying experience. “In 3 months we managed to make nearly 400 reusable masks, that we donated to the seniors in our neighborhood. Even if we managed to help only one person, still that means that our job was needed!”
“I was riding a taxi and the driver asked me for a mask. I gave him the one that Michalina tailored and that’s incredible how happy he was”, told us Tomasz Żochowski – the leader of the initiative. “Those are the best moments of the action, that I can recall – the ones when we could have answered the personal requests for help. For such occasions it was worth organizing it all.”
As part of #EngineersInArms our employees also took on more complex projects joining the efforts of the Łukasiewicz Research Network – Institute of Aviation. Among others they helped create special adapters that allow medics to use snorkeling masks as PPE. One of our engineers and people leaders – Marek Kret, Business and General Aviation Manager, joined the team working on Last chance respirator project, where he had been supporting the disposable human interface elements. “At that time nobody knew how many sets of masks for the patients were in hospitals or in stock and if there would be sufficient to help everyone. That’s why we’ve developed alternatives utilizing commonly available goods so everyone could get his or her chance.”, told us Marek Kret.
Noticed, even if we weren’t doing it for publicity
Our initiative did not go unnoticed both locally and globally. GE awarded the initiative for Inspiring Leadership, Ms Georgette Mosbacher – the US Ambassador in Poland supported us with a Tweet and the deputy mayor of our district visited EDC to collect the donations and thank our engineers for the job they did for our neighbors. We handed over hundreds of visors and cloth masks to the Włochy district and donated a bundle of airtight containers and toiletries bags to help the cities initiative to provide hot meals and toiletries to those in need.
Always ready for help
Let’s hope that the COVID-19 pandemic will end soon and that the help of Engineers in Arms won’t be needed any more. But if so, we are ready to do it again in a heartbeat. Maybe different scope, maybe different people, but if needed, we will stand again, arm by arm, together, to help.
*We are proud to say that all of the actions coordinated under the #EngineersInArms are cost-free. This means that we had to put our charm and interpersonal skills to good use to convince our partners and secure necessary materials.
Please check the short summary of our actions below:
We also encourage you to have a look at this small photo gallery of the #EngineersInArms initiative.